4. Her relationship with Taylor Hackford.
There’s a reason Helen and hubby Taylor Hackford made our Most Romantic Celeb Couples list for Valentine’s Day this year. They were together for 12 years before getting married in 1997, and they’re still going strong. Hilariously, they met when he directed her in the 1985 film White Nights—though apparently their initial meeting was far from love at first sight. He kept her waiting at her audition, and she turned icy in response. She got over it, though—enough to marry him, when as a young woman she vowed she’d never tie the knot with anyone. Awesome relationship? We think so!
5. The Mars Volta named a song after her.
It’s called “Ilyena” and it’s on their 2008 album The Bedlam in Goliath. Dame Helen’s birth name is Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov—or, in English, Helen Lydia Mironoff. Rock.
6. She doesn’t let anyone else define her.
Let’s use a specific example here. By now, you’ve probably read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s polarizing article in last month’s issue of The Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” There were a lot of reactions to it, but the biggest question it prompted is actually about what the phrase “having it all” even means. To some, it’s having both a successful career and a family, but ultimately, the definition depends on each individual woman. Take Dame Helen, for instance. She doesn’t have kids, but rather than letting anyone twist that fact around to mean that she’s somehow failed as a woman, she refuses to let anyone else use it to define her. “I’ve no maternal instinct whatsoever,” she’s said, “and I don’t think I’m so unusual. I think an awful lot of women don’t really want children but feel they ought to. They think there’s something wrong with them if they don’t want to, but it’s not true.” She is who she is, and she’s perfectly content with it.
Up next: Helen’s surprising favorite role and more!